LeBron James wants to see Heat forward James Jones on the court with more regularity.
One day after the Heat’s first loss of the postseason, James publicly voiced his opinion that the Heat is a better team when Jones is part of the action, and that Jones needs more minutes in Miami’s Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Brooklyn Nets. The Heat lost to the Nets 94-82 in Game 3 on Saturday, and now leads the best-of-7 series 2-1. Game 4 is 8 p.m. Monday at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
Jones was used consistently throughout the Heat’s first-round series against the Charlotte Bobcats, but was out of the rotation for the first two victories against the Nets.
He was then inserted into the fourth quarter during Game 3 and went 3 of 3 from three-point range.
Jones has appeared in six playoff games through the first two rounds of the postseason and is 10-of-20 shooting from three-point range.
“We have to find some minutes for him,” James said Sunday after the Heat’s practice at Baruch College in Manhattan. “I don’t see why he shouldn’t play.”
Jones’ offensive contribution in the fourth quarter of Game 3 helped the Heat cut a 20-point deficit to 11 points with 1:50 to play in the game, but a three-pointer later by Joe Johnson put the Nets back ahead by 16 points with 58 seconds to play. On Saturday, James compared Jones to Nets shooter Mirza Teletovic, who is shooting 11 of 19 from three-point range in the series.
“He can flat out shoot the ball,” James said of Teletovic. “There are only a few guys in our league that can do that. We have a guy on our team like him in James Jones who when he comes in and touches the ball and let it go, you believe it’s going in.”
If the Heat makes an in-series adjustment and uses Jones to match Teletovic shot for shot, then that could mean fewer minutes for one of the Heat’s other wing players.
Shane Battier has started each game of the Heat’s Eastern Conference semifinals, but could again be replaced in the starting lineup by Udonis Haslem. That would free up Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to bring Jones in off of the bench.
Of course, Spoelstra might not tweak the lineup at all. The Heat’s coach said the team’s problems in Game 3 went far beyond the personnel on the court. He compared keeping track of all the many mistakes the Heat made in Game 3 to “trying to plug in holes in a leaking dam.”
“You have to be honest with the film, first of all, and that was our worst performance of the series,” Spoelstra said. “They played a very good basketball game and they outplayed us in most of the facets … and we have to respond with a much better game, and that’s all across the board.
“It’s not just the effort and urgency. It’s also the detail, and the little things.”
In addition to Jones’ stellar shooting numbers, the Heat is outscoring opponents by a total of 53 points this postseason when Jones is on the court. In every game, Jones has posted a positive plus-minus score differential, and James has noted several times throughout the playoffs that Jones’ presence on the court makes the Heat difficult to defend.
“It’s the space that he provides and his ability to shoot the ball,” James said of Jones. “You can’t do both when he’s out on the floor. You can’t help on my drives, and try to contest the threes on him … It’s huge for our team when he’s in the lineup. It’s big time.”
Paul Pierce had plenty to say to James during and after Game 3, but James wouldn’t entertain questions about Pierce’s trash-talking ways. Longtime playoff rivals, Pierce and James are playing in their fifth postseason series against each other.
“You guys should know Paul by now,” James said. “It’s not how I play the game. I don’t play the game by getting into words and be a bulletin board. It’s just about us trying to win the series.
“It’s not about what Paul has to say. I really don’t care what Paul has to say. We don’t really get into that.”
Pierce was called for a flagrant foul against James in the first quarter of Game 3. After the game, Pierce lobbed a few verbal salvos James’ way as James was leaving the court. At the Nets’ practice Sunday, Pierce said: “we can beat this team. They're not unbeatable.”
James’ counter: “Words don’t win a game. You’ve got to go out and play.”